Years ago, a friend’s son got confused and called me a mercenary instead of a missionary — in Portuguese. My friend thought it was hilarious; I, not so much.
The words are similar enough in both languages, and I’ve used them together on occasion. You’ll see others doing it, too, since their meanings offer a sharp contrast in motivations.
Today, I read an article with those two words in the title. The author noted how Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s staff are real believers, so much so that many of them continued working for his presidential campaign after money was short and salaries went unpaid.
The author drew some contrasts between mercenaries and missionaries.
Mercenaries attack opponents and take no prisoners.
Missionaries stand behind a cause and don’t back down.
Mercenaries know little loyalty and money is an end, whatever the means.
Missionaries become ambassadors, where money is simply a means to an end.
Mercenaries find their employer and figure out how to make it work.
Missionaries find their inspiration and are motivated within.
Mercenaries are an indicator of a lacking candidate. One who needs to stack up the talent, rather than naturally attract them.
Missionaries are created by true leaders who embody the vision and carry a resume people can respect.
Contrasts similar to these can be made in the spiritual realm as well, if you use “missionary” in the widest sense possible of saints with a mission. The apostle Paul declared himself to be missionary and not mercenary:
Now I am coming to you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you. I don’t want what you have—I want you.
2 Corinthians 12.14 NLT
Not yours, but you, according to the older versions. He wasn’t in it for the money. He’d learned the secret of contentment in want and in plenty. He was all in for the glory of God and the saving of souls. That’s missionary.
How else would you contrast mercenaries and missionaries in the spiritual realm?